The Trumpverstehers have given up on character in politics. None of them like Trump, although they will use words like “vulgarian” to characterize him, not “liar,” or “bully,” or “scoundrel.” They disregard his cruelty, too. When pressed, they claim that he may be an ignoramus and a rascal, but that that does not matter: only his policies do. In some ways, this reflects their belief in the strength of institutional constraints on the presidency, and in others their view that Trump is a blowhard who lacks the nerve to actually try, for example, to shut down hostile news media or incite large-scale violence. As long as the lines of his policy are reasonable in their eyes, they will ignore behavior that 20 years ago would have outraged them. They now consider qualities such as probity, thrift, magnanimity, and fidelity to be private virtues: From public figures, we cannot and should not expect them.

And words do not matter, either. The Trumpverstehers brush off the torrent of the president’s outrageous lies with statements like, “I care about what he does, not what he says.” They seem, in some ways, no longer to view honest public speech and rigorous argument as central to free government. Trump is, by and large, doing the right thing, they believe, and his obnoxious, false, and semi-literate pronouncements are mere bait to outrage overly sensitive souls and cause them to overreact. It is another remarkable departure for people, many of them admirers of Lincoln and Churchill, whose careers were built on careful and precise use of language in the public good.

Finally, the Trumpverstehers usually focus on a few issues—the Iran deal, deregulation, stronger border enforcement—and come back to those as justifications for supporting him.